UNC Asheville Awarded $457,020 to Implement National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates

Aerial view of Zeis HallUNC Asheville's Zeis Hall, home of the Biology, Chemistry and New Media Departments
December 2, 2020

UNC Asheville has been awarded a $457,020 grant from the National Science Foundation to implement undergraduate research experiences unique to “Climate City” with worldwide impact.

The interdisciplinary project will span three years, with up to 30 undergraduate scholars awarded funding.

“Rapid changes in the earth’s climate are creating significant impacts in a number of different areas, including animal and plant life, oceans and rivers, human health, and the economy,” explains Atmospheric Sciences Professor and Chair Christopher Hennon, who is a co-principal investigator for the grant. “This project pairs undergraduate students interested in these problems with a professional mentor for a 10-week focused research experience.  We particularly encourage participation for underrepresented students who traditionally do not have the opportunity to bring their research ideas into reality and work with leading scientists.”

The program began September 2020 and the first cohort of up to 10 students will convene at UNC Asheville in summer 2021 to work on a 10-week project. Undergraduate students are encouraged to apply by February 15, 2021 at https://reu.unca.edu/.

Students choose from a set of topics that include: detecting climate change signals in data, investigating impacts on high elevation plants in the southern Appalachians, understanding and communicating science, classifying changes in urban greenspace, and societal impacts of climate change.  At the end of their research experience, students present their findings at a program symposium and then at a national undergraduate research conference the following year.  The goal of the project is to provide students with the knowledge, tools and network of climate professionals that will increase student understanding of the climate system and provide them with a solid foundation to continue their research after the end of the experience.

Each student will work closely with an expert mentor from UNC Asheville’s Departments of Atmospheric Sciences, Biology, Environmental Studies, and Education, in partnership with UNC Asheville’s National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center (NEMAC) and community climate organizations such as NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), CASE Consultants International, and the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies (NCICS). Assistant Professor of Biology Rebecca Helm serves as co-principal investigator for the grant.

A Recent History of NSF Grants to UNC Asheville

This summer 2020 grant marks the eighth NSF award in the past five years. UNC Asheville’s Chemistry Department administers an NSF grant of nearly $1 million for its successful Chemistry Scholars Program, and received a first grant of $605,117 in 2015 to launch the program and is now in its third S-STEM grant. The $997,988 grant has expanded the program to create a multi-faceted program between the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and Student Affairs, deeply focused on supporting students. The project provides need- and merit-based scholarships, and focuses not only on the academic challenges to being a successful chemistry student, but also on the social and emotional challenges as well. Established in 2011, the Chemistry Scholars Program has graduated 40 Chemistry Scholars from 2015-2020.

The Departments of Atmospheric Sciences and Computer Science at UNC Asheville also received an NSF grant of $628,288 in 2014 to provide scholarships and academic support to undergraduate students. With scholarships of approximately $6,000 per year, the Atmospheric and Computer Science Exploratory Scholars (ACES) Program also provided peer tutors and faculty mentors both inside and outside of the classroom and built cohorts for students in both disciplines to monitor student progress. Through the Class of 2020, 11 ACES scholarship students have graduated.

To learn more about these NSF grant-funded programs and scholarship programs, contact:

  • NSF Undergraduate Research Experiences: Department of Atmospheric Sciences Chair and Professor Christopher Hennon at chennon@unca.edu or 828.232.5159.
  • NSF Chemistry Scholars Program: Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry Chair and Professor Sally Wasileski at swasiles@unca.edu or 828.232.5169.
  • NSF Atmospheric and Computer Science Exploratory Scholars (ACES) Program: Department of Computer Science Chair and Professor Marietta Cameron at mcameron@unca.edu or Professor of Atmospheric Sciences Douglas Miller at dmiller@unca.edu.